Links April 17th to April 19th

Links from my account for April 17th through April 19th:

  • Egypt's state circus joins growing unrest at tough economic reforms | World news | The Guardian - On Egypt's wave of strikes, with circus performers the latest to join.
  • New books grapple with national misery - The National Newspaper - "Such books as Are You Happy, Egypt?, Egypt From the Balcony, Seething Egypt and Egypt Is Not My Mother, It’s My Stepmother – playing on the title of the patriotic song Egypt Is My Mother and Its Nile Is My Blood – attempt to capture the mood of despair, and several have become bestsellers."
  • Newspapers in Dubai - Saturday Breakfast RN - 18 April 2009 - An interview with Martin Rowland, editor-in-chief of The National, on his experience in Abu Dhabi.
  • Wall: A Monologue - The New York Review of Books - On Israel's wall. But it contains a stupendous mistake for the NYRB: " Ramallah houses the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank—as opposed to Hamas, which was elected to govern Gaza in 2006." WTF? Hamas was elected to a majority in the Palestinian parliament for all of the territories, not just Gaza. It was not meant to control Gaza, but rather control the legislative and part of the executive of all of the territories, alongside with President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • Claims of biz swindle in Dubai's ruling family - "Shahram Abdullah Zadeh accuses the brother-in-law of Dubai's emir illegally of taking over his real-estate firm and having him detained by police to help the swindle. Zadeh, a 37-year-old Iranian national who has lived in Dubai all his life, brought a civil case against the brother-in-law to get his firm back, a rare move. Even more surprising, Zadeh tried to raise criminal charges, but that step went nowhere because prosecutors rejected it."
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Cairo KFC run by deaf

A Cairo KFC outlet entirely staffed by deaf people. This video is not new but I came across it and was struck. There are a lot of deaf people in Cairo and I remember, when I first arrived here, going to an qahwa (café) whose customers were mostly deaf. I made some interesting conversations there, thanks to the help of a very talented interpreter who could sign in several languages and translate between them, as well as speak several languages. Egypt has a high proportion of deaf people because of poor public health policies and the prevalence of certain diseases such as meningitis and rubella, as well as the practice (traditionally preferred by some) of first-cousin marriages. Read more about it in this Egypt Today feature.
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Links April 16th to April 17th

Links from my account for April 16th through April 17th:

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Emanuel sends message that Obama will play hardball with Bibi

I'm reproducing this entire blog post by MJ Rosenberg because it made my jaw drop on the floor (in a good way):
Emanuel Says Obama Insists On Implementing Two State Solution, No Ifs, Ands, or Buts | Israel Policy Forum: "Yedioth Achronoth, the largest circulation daily in Israel, reports today that President Obama intends to see the two-state solution signed, sealed and delivered during his first term. Rahm Emanuel told an (unnamed) Jewish leader; 'In the next four years there is going to be a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn't matter to us at all who is prime minister.' He also said that the United States will exert pressure to see that deal is put into place.'Any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory,' the paper reports Emanuel as saying.  In other words, US sympathy for Israel's position vis a vis Iran depends on Israel's willingness to live up to its commitment to get out of the West Bank and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state there, in Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Yedioth also reports that Obama is conveying his displeasure with the new Israeli government in several ways. 'US administration officials informed Netanyahu that President Obama will not be able to meet with him in early May, while the AIPAC conference is held in Washington. The meeting between the new Israeli premier and the president of the United States is perceived in Israel as a sign that the formation process of the new government has been completed and as a salutation by Israel's close friend. Netanyahu had hoped to capitalize on the opportunity and to meet with Obama during the annual AIPAC conference, but the Americans informed the Israelis that Obama was not going to be 'in town.' That being the case, the inclination among Netanyahu's aides is to cancel his trip to attend the AIPAC conference and to try to secure a date for a meeting with Obama later in May. 'Sources in Washington also said that the Obama administration would not continue the tradition that developed during the Bush administration of hosting Israeli premiers many times during the year, sometimes with just a phone call's advance notice.' So far neither the White House or the Israeli government has commented on the report which, it should be noted, comes from Shimon Shiffer, one of Israel's most highly respected journalists."
If this is true Obama will have a tough time ahead of him, although postponing ANY meeting with Netanyahu until he comes out clearly in support of the two-state solution is a first. I wish there could be a mechanism to define the two-state solution within the parameters of 242 or Geneva, too. Update: Along with the report above, read this:
When a group of Jewish liberals formed a lobbying and fundraising group called J Street a year ago, they had modest hopes of raising $50,000 for a handful of congressional candidates. Instead, the group's political arm ended up funneling nearly $600,000 to several dozen Democrats and a handful of Republicans in 2008, making it Washington's leading pro-Israel PAC, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure records. Organizers say 33 of the group's 41 favored House and Senate candidates won their races.
[Thanks, SP] Winning the support of the White House for a sane policy towards the Israel/Palestine conflict is important, but not nearly as important as winning the Congress' support -- especially for if and when the time comes to impose sanctions on companies that do business with settlements in the Occupied Territories or withholding loan guarantees. There will have to be a battle, probably against J-Street, to ensure a Palestinian state is viable and fully sovereign (esp. over its airspace, borders and underground resources, notably water.) But that's a different fight.
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The mighty eggplant

"'According to Marie-Christine Daunay, who is in charge of eggplant studies at the French agronomic research institute INRA, eggplant is somewhat of a mystery even to those who work with it daily. But at least we know a little about its propensity to drink. It is due partly to the spongy texture, of course, but Daunay tells me that the eggplant also contains compounds called saponins 'that have a natural affinity for lipids.' They love fat, in other words, and work as hard as they can to soak up as much of it as possible. Saponins are also responsible for the bitter flavors that in small quantities can be nice but in older or undercooked eggplant can be overwhelming. Although it's not yet scientifically proven, saponins are believed to help lower cholesterol and, if not satisfied in their craving for fat, to absorb fats present in our digestive system.' "
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A list of links to recent interesting things that I've just gotten around to reading: At Words Without Borders, Carol Perkins translates a short story about adultery--"The Masseuse and her Adulterous Husband"--by Syrian writer Salwa Al Neimi. (It has some striking information about adultery laws in Tunisia).  British playwright David Hare spends time in Israel and the Occupied Territories talking to people about and visiting different points in the wall that now separates the two; he writes a personal, provocative essay in the New York Review of Books. Here's a passage:
And that's what I feel in Jerusalem as well. Jerusalem used to be the spiritual capital—after all, that's what the argument was about. You could feel it, on every street corner, you could feel the history, but now with the hideous wall and the overbuilding and desecration of the landscape—I mean, what is going on? Aren't they destroying the very quality for which the city was meant to be precious? Aren't they killing the thing they love? Or is that my problem? Am I just a decadent Westerner who can't help thinking spirituality must have something to do with beauty? Jerusalem used to be beautiful. Now it isn't. As far as I'm concerned, Jerusalem is spoiled—How can it not be spoiled? It has a great concrete wall beside it—but then Jerusalem was never intended for me. It was intended for believers.
At The National, George Packer reviews a book about an Iraqi general, his family, and their complicity in Saddam's regime; Robyn Creswell reviews Adina Hoffman's biography of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali (he says it is "a triumph of sympathetic imagination, dogged research and impassioned writing" and "the is the first biography of any Palestinian writer in any language"--can that be true?) And finally, ArteEast has a new issue of their digital magazine up; this one focuses on the Art of Engagement--on the intersection of political activism, political engagement and art, the "limits and possibilities of publicly engaged art and participatory practice in the Middle East."
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Hamas paints Gilad Shalit mural

Hamas militants painted murals of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit and missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad Wednesday night in the Jabalyah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The graffiti portrays Shalit as he looks in 2009 next to a mock-up of how the soldier will look after another 30 years in captivity, his hair grey and his face beset by wrinkles. The murals were painted during a demonstration held to mark Prisoners' Day, presumably in a bid to tilt Israeli public opinion in favor of a prisoner exchange with Hamas. During a rally held four months ago to mark the 21st anniversary of the founding of Hamas, the Islamic group performed a skit where an operative dressed in an IDF uniform mimicked Shalit, portraying the soldier complaining in Hebrew about how he "misses mommy and daddy."
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Links for April 16th

Links from my account for April 16th:

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Pirates: US has Navy Seals, China has dolphins

Who needs special ops and snipers when you can have forces of nature defending your international shipping:
BEIJING, April 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of dolphins blocked the suspected Somali pirate ships when they were trying to attack Chinese merchant ships passing the Gulf of Aden, the China Radio International reported on Monday. The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China's fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China's. The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness before the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.
The Chinese have the best propaganda.
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Links for April 15th

Links from my account for April 15th:

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Links April 14th to April 15th

Links from my account for April 14th through April 15th:

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Now not only Hizbullah, but Iranian Revolutionary Guards?

I haven't really had time to weigh in on the Hizbullah-in-Egypt scandal, but the story continues to develop with more allegations and charges made against the Hizbullah cell, including another Shorouk scoop this morning that four Iranian Revolutionary Guards were arrested by Egyptian authorities last December, apparently entering on the country using Shia Iraqi IDs and networking with Iraqi Shia refugees in Cairo. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the public prosecutor is preparing a "surprise" when more charges are formally filed, which some think will include charges against Hassan Nasrallah himself. The informed consensus among Egyptian commentators is that Hizbullah made a mistake in toying with Egypt's sovereignty, but that Egypt should not exaggerate in its response either. Most center around the accusation, confirmed by Nasrallah, that Hizbullah was setting up a logistics support network for Hamas' weapons supply line. It would be naive to assume that this is strictly all they were doing, some level of spying should also be assumed. Most commentators reject the accusation that Hizbullah was planning attacks against Israeli tourists in retaliation for the assassination of its military chief Emad Mughniyeh, although some recent information has surfaced that there may have been parallel networks operating: in addition to the ones helping Hamas, there might have also been one concentrating on the Iraqi Shia community and what one might call general purpose espionage, for instance on the Suez Canal (rather, as some newspapers have alleged, a plan to fire shoulder-launched missiles at passing ships.) Although the brouhaha over this affair will probably have the intended effect of turning part of Egyptian public opinion against Hizbullah on nationalist grounds -- and I would certainly agree that any country should be concerned about arms smuggling and espionage operations taking place -- it is also highlighting Egypt's strangehold on Hamas supply lines (financial and military) which the likes of columnists Fahmy Howeidy, the Muslim Brothers' General Guide Mahdi Akef and others are condemning. Nasrallah, in his unusual confession that Hizbullah does have operatives in Egypt, also reiterated the helping-Hamas-as-a-duty line that has some resonance here, and not just among Islamists. Perhaps more details on the accusations to date later... Update: I wanted to ask readers who are more familiar with Hizbullah than I am the following: the Egyptian press reported in the last couple of days that the name of the Hizbullah handler for their Egypt operation is called Muhammad Qabalan, alleged to be the head of intelligence for Hizbullah. And that Emad Mughniyeh's replacement as head of military operations is called Talal Hamiyeh. Anyone familiar with those names?
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Links for April 14th

Links from my account for April 14th:

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Links April 13th to April 14th

Links from my account for April 13th through April 14th:

  • U.S. Looks at Dropping a Condition for Iran Nuclear Talks, Officials Say - - "The proposals, exchanged in confidential strategy sessions with European allies, would press Tehran to open up its nuclear program gradually to wide-ranging inspection. But the proposals would also allow Iran to continue enriching uranium for some period during the talks. That would be a sharp break from the approach taken by the Bush administration, which had demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities, at least briefly to initiate negotiations."
  • Clip - Entertaining MEMRI clip has crazy Algerian author say the Arabs are the dregs of humanity.
  • SOUTH LEBANON: Globalizing Politicide - Israel's Strikes on Sudan - "These attacks represent obvious violations of international law. Not as obvious, but more importantly, the attacks also represent a renewed globalizing of Israel’s policy of politicide. They are the most recent instances of Israel making global its policy of destroying the national existence of the Palestinians. As such they represent a very real and increasing threat to individual and international peace and security, particularly to the people of the post-colonial south, but also those of the imperial north."
  • Mossad tip led to capture of Hezbollah cell in Sinai - Haaretz - Israel News - More Zviying: "The CIA, Mossad, Britain's MI6, the German BND and other intelligence services - like those of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan who have suffered attacks by terrorist cells operated by Iran - have stepped up collaboration, information sharing and joint assessments. Egypt's chief of intelligence, General Omar Suleiman, is a frequent visitor to Israel and the doors of his counterparts in Israel are always open, as are those of the Prime Minister's bureau." Err... what terrorist attacks by Hizbullah in Egypt, Jordan or Saudi?
  • Analysis: Hizbullah shows its true colors to the Arab world | Middle East | Jerusalem Post - I think there a class of Israeli journalists called "The Zvis". The Zvis - Barel, Mazel, whatever - hyperventilate wildly in their articles, which are based on two sources: Israel intelligence and the Arab press. Their lack of caution in treating both sources is staggering. There's been a spate of articles in the Israeli press where the Zvis are feeling very smug about the Hizbullah-Egypt story. And they're buying the terrorism charges that most Egyptians don't buy hook, line and sinker.
  • Making Smugglers Pay: Underwriting Egyptian Border Security - The toads at WINEP want to get the US to get Egypt to formalize its seizure of Hamas funding. Surely they realize that it's a tactical move by Egypt, not necessarily a permanent one? I like the title they've given, it's meant to echo the current US concern over illegal immigrants.
  • EGYPT: Cairo calls Hezbollah terrorist organization | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times - "Yet, for some observers, Egypt has gone too far by labeling Hezbollah a terrorist movement. “These harsh and exaggerated accusations show that the Egyptian position is more extremist than the position of the new American administration and many circles in the West in general which consider the necessity of holding dialogues with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and of drawing a distinction between the terrorist and the political in these groups,” said Amr Choubaki, a political analyst with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies."
  • | Libya appoints new intelligence chief - "Libya leader Moamer Kadhafi appointed former deputy prime minister Abu Zaid Omar Dourdaa to head the Foreign Intelligence Services, Reuters reported on Sunday (April 12th). Dourdaa will succeed Moussa Koussa, who took over as foreign minister six weeks ago. Dourdaa once served as Libya's envoy to the United Nations."
  • Khaleej Times Online - Hamas ‘surprised’ by Egypt’s Hezbollah allegations - "‘Bringing weapons to Gaza is not a crime at all,’ Hamas said in its statement Monday. ‘We express our solidarity with our brothers in Hezbollah... resisting the Zionist occupation is a duty and an honour for every Muslim." Hamas being careful about the Egyptians here...
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Links for April 13th

Links from my account for April 13th:

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Links April 11th to April 13th

Links from my account for April 11th through April 13th:

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